Federal Way combats shopping cart clutter

Cart Recovery employee Gary Wieburg piles abandoned shopping carts in the old Target parking lot Jan. 24 before the company delivered the items back to their owners. - Jacinda Howard/The Mirror
Cart Recovery employee Gary Wieburg piles abandoned shopping carts in the old Target parking lot Jan. 24 before the company delivered the items back to their owners.
— image credit: Jacinda Howard/The Mirror

A 16-hour mass collection of abandoned shopping carts on Jan. 24 made a dent in an ongoing problem.

Abandoned shopping carts are becoming part of Federal Way's everyday landscape. They are piling up along some of Federal Way's busiest thoroughfares, in parking lots and at bus stops. In an attempt to crack down on the issue, the city hired Northeast Tacoma based Cart Recovery — a business owned by Kevin Crossen that focuses on picking up abandoned carts for clients.

"Every city out there has this same issue," Crossen said.

The city will monitor the effort's impact and take note of problem areas for the next three months, spokeswoman Linda Farmer said. If abandoned carts keep returning, city staff will introduce ways to alleviate the problem. These could include issuing civil infractions, she said.

Crossen and his crew regularly retrieve carts for Federal Way clients such as both Safeways and Wal-Marts, Top Foods, Target, Albertsons, Fred Meyer and Winco. Roughly 450 carts are collected for these clients per month, Crossen said. Typically, the crews pick up the carts they are paid to retrieve and leave the others.

"We drive by carts that have been there for four months," Crossen said.

On Saturday, the crews hit the streets picking up every abandoned cart they saw. At the end of the day, 327 shopping carts were recovered. Most were found in the downtown core, Crossen said. Twin Lakes and northern Federal Way, near South 272nd Street, as well as southern areas, near Costco, were less of a focus, he said. Bus stops, apartment complexes, parking lots, the transit center and behind vacated businesses are areas to find ditched shopping carts, Crossen said.

"We know the hot spots," he said.

Cart Recovery used the old Target parking lot for a drop-off center until all the carts were collected. By mid-day, approximately 65 carts that had not yet been taken to their owners were placed in several rows. Awaiting their fates: Carts grocers have since replaced with newer versions, carts missing several wheels and one that was so rusted it looked like it could not safely hold anything.

Most of the carts were returned to their owners for free. Thirty-four of them were unmarked or belonged to stores that closed; those carts were taken to a recycler. The city will be able to recover some of the cost for the operation by recycling these carts.

Cart Recovery made a good dent in the problem, but the recovery effort will not solve the problem, Crossen said.

"What the city isn't very realistic about is this problem is not going to stop or go away. In a month, we'll be in the same boat," Crossen said.

Cities such as Auburn have already figured this out. There, abandoned shopping carts are a public nuisance and can be impounded. Businesses are charged $30 to retrieve carts, according to Auburn municipal code. If the carts are not claimed within 14 days, the city disposes of them and charges the owner the $30 impound fee plus a $70 disposal fee, according to the code.

The city council has been reluctant to consider such options in Federal Way, as the fees are not considered business-friendly.

Check it out

To contact Cart Recovery, call (866) 906-2278.

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